Archive for April, 2017


  Rehoboam and Jeroboam were both kings reigning in Israel’s divided kingdom. Rehoboam was one of Solomon’s sons and king of Judah in the south (1 Kings 11:43). Jeroboam was one of Solomon’s former officials, an Ephraimite, and king of Israel in the north (1 Kings 11:26).

While Solomon was still alive and Jeroboam was working for him, a prophet named Ahijah told Jeroboam that God would take ten of the twelve tribes of Israel away from Solomon’s son Rehoboam and give them to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:29–31). This judgment against Solomon’s house came because they had forsaken God and worshiped idols (verse 33). Along with the announcement that Jeroboam would be king, God gave him a conditional promise: “If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you” (verse 38). When Solomon heard that God had chosen Jeroboam to rule, the king tried to kill Jeroboam, who fled to Egypt (verse 40).

After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became king, and Jeroboam returned from Egypt (1 Kings 12:1–2). But Rehoboam was a vain and foolish man. Jeroboam, a “mighty man of valor,” warned Rehoboam not to make the same mistake his father had made by taxing them heavily to finance a luxurious lifestyle (verses 3–4). Rehoboam defied the advice to lighten the yoke of oppression: “My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions!” (1 Kings 12:14).

The people responded to Rehoboam’s harshness by rebelling against the new king and making Jeroboam king over Israel (1 Kings 12:16–20). Only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin followed Rehoboam, son of Solomon. The other ten tribes sided with Jeroboam. King Rehoboam gathered 180,000 warriors in an attempt to take back the ten tribes, but God prevented it, saying, “This is my doing” (1 Kings 12:24). So King Rehoboam returned to the capital of Jerusalem. Jeroboam reigned from Samaria.

Once established in the northern kingdom, King Jeroboam feared that, if the people traveled to the temple in Jerusalem to worship, they would return to Rehoboam. So he set up centers of worship in Bethel and Dan, building golden calves and telling the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt” (1 Kings 12:28). Jeroboam made shrines on the high places, installed priests who were not of the tribe of Levi, appointed a festival, and sacrificed at the altars (1 Kings 12:31–33). In spite of God’s offer to establish his dynasty in Israel, Jeroboam chose idolatry, and the prophet Ahijah told Jeroboam that his family would not endure (1 Kings 14).

As Jeroboam was turning people away from God in the northern kingdom, Rehoboam was turning people away from God in the southern kingdom. Rehoboam reigned in Jerusalem for seventeen years, but “he did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord” (2 Chronicles 12:14). After Rehoboam there were good kings and bad kings over Judah. Every other generation or so, a great king stepped forward and turned the people back to the true God. That never happened among the kings of the northern kingdom. They all followed the mold of Jeroboam. Jeroboam reigned over the ten tribes of Israel for twenty-two years and was succeeded by his son Nadab. But then Nadab was murdered after two years on the throne, and the assassin killed all of Jeroboam’s family, fulfilling Ahijah’s prophecy (1 Kings 15:25–30). All subsequent monarchs of the kingdom of Israel followed Jeroboam’s lead. Not one of them was faithful to Israel’s God.

The schism that occurred during the days of Rehoboam and Jeroboam was the end of a united Israel. This division continued during their reigns: “There was continual warfare between Rehoboam and Jeroboam” (2 Chronicles 12:15) and for centuries afterward.

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  Jehoiakim (named Eliakim at birth, 2 Chronicles 36:4) was one of the last kings of Judah before the Babylonian Captivity. Jehoiakim was a son of good King Josiah (Jeremiah 26:1) of Judah. His mother’s name was Zebidah (2 Kings 23:36). Jehoiakim’s father, King Josiah, had returned Judah to the Lord by tearing down idol shrines and restoring obedience to God’s Law (2 Kings 23:19–25). After Josiah’s death, his son Jehoahaz was chosen king by the people. But, as often happened in those days, Jehoahaz did not follow in the footsteps of his father but “did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 23:32). Jehoahaz only reigned three months before he was taken into captivity by the king of Egypt, who replaced Jehoahaz with his brother Eliakim (2 Kings 23:26; 2 Chronicles 36:5). The Egyptian king renamed the 25-year-old Eliakim “Jehoiakim.”

Jehoiakim also did evil in the Lord’s sight (2 Kings 23:37). Because of the ongoing, unrepentant sin of the nation of Judah, God sent invading armies to capture and enslave them. Jehoiakim was taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar, who put him in chains and carted him off to Babylon (2 Kings 24:1; 2 Chronicles 36:6;). It was at this time that Daniel and his three friends were also taken to Babylon (Daniel 1:1–2). Jehoiakim was later returned to Jerusalem, although he had to act as Nebuchadnezzar’s servant for three years and pay tribute to him.

During the time King Jehoiakim reigned as a vassal of Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah preached in Jerusalem. God’s message was that the Babylonian invasion was God’s punishment for Judah’s sin and that the Hebrews should repent. Jehoiakim called for Jeremiah’s scroll to be read in his court. But, as every three or four columns of the scroll were read, “the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire. The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes” (Jeremiah 36:23–24). Rather than heed God’s warning, Jehoiakim hardened his heart and tried to destroy God’s Word (see Jeremiah 25:1–4). Earlier, Jehoiakim had murdered the godly prophet Uriah (Jeremiah 26:20–23).

Jehoiakim reigned eleven years (2 Kings 23:36; 2 Chronicles 36:5). Jeremiah rewrote the scroll that Jehoiakim had burned, and God pronounced judgment on the king: “Therefore this is what the LORD says about Jehoiakim king of Judah: He will have no one to sit on the throne of David; his body will be thrown out and exposed to the heat by day and the frost by night” (Jeremiah 32:30). “He will be buried like a dead donkey—dragged out of Jerusalem and dumped outside the gates!” (Jeremiah 22:19, NLT). This prophecy was fulfilled when, in the eleventh year of Jehoiakim’s reign, he stopped paying tribute to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar responded by besieging Jerusalem. According to Josephus, Jehoiakim was killed during the siege, and his body was thrown over the city wall.

After Jehoiakim’s ignoble death, his son Jehoiachin succeeded him as the new king in Judah. Jehoiachin reigned only three months and ten days (2 Chronicles 36:9) before he, too, was taken to Babylon while the foreign king appointed his successor (2 Chronicles 36:10). This appointment of kings by the people or by invading armies was a far cry from the holy anointing of God’s chosen ones by His prophets in days gone by. The removal of God from Judah’s political process was another indication of just how far the Jewish people had fallen away from their God.

From King Jehoiakim’s life, we can learn that godly parentage does not necessarily guarantee godly children. Many times in Israel’s and Judah’s history, the Bible records that the children of good kings and prophets “did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 21:1–2; 1 Samuel 8:3) and did not follow the paths of their fathers. God holds each individual responsible for his or her obedience to His direction (Deuteronomy 24:16). King Jehoiakim’s willful rejection of God’s Word and his subsequent fate are a perfect illustration of the folly of disobedience. “Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1).

As with many details in ancient history, the exact origin of Moloch/Molech worship is unclear. The term Moloch is believed to have originated with the Phoenician mlk, which referred to a type of sacrifice made to confirm or acquit a vow. Melekh is the Hebrew word for “king.” It was common for the Israelites to combine the name of pagan gods with the vowels in the Hebrew word for shame: bosheth. This is how the goddess of fertility and war, Astarte, became Ashtoreth. The combination of mlk, melekh, and bosheth results in “Moloch,” which could be interpreted as “the personified ruler of shameful sacrifice.” It has also been spelled Milcom, Milkim, Malik, and Moloch. Ashtoreth was his consort, and ritual prostitution was considered an important form of worship.

The Phoenicians were a loosely gathered group of people who inhabited Canaan (modern-day Lebanon, Syria, and Israel) between 1550 BC and 300 BC. In addition to sexual rituals, Moloch worship included child sacrifice, or “passing children through the fire.” It is believed that idols of Moloch were giant metal statues of a man with a bull’s head. Each image had a hole in the abdomen and possibly outstretched forearms that made a kind of ramp to the hole. A fire was lit in or around the statue. Babies were placed in the statue’s arms or in the hole. When a couple sacrificed their firstborn, they believed that Moloch would ensure financial prosperity for the family and future children.

Moloch/Molech worship wasn’t limited to Canaan. Monoliths in North Africa bear the engraving “mlk”—often written “mlk’mr” and “mlk’dm,” which may mean “sacrifice of lamb” and “sacrifice of man.” In North Africa, Moloch was renamed “Kronos.” Kronos migrated to Carthage in Greece, and his mythology grew to include his becoming a Titan and the father of Zeus. Moloch is affiliated with and sometimes equated to Ba’al, although the word ba’al was also used to designate any god or ruler.

In Genesis 12 Abraham followed God’s call to move to Canaan. Although human sacrifice was not common in Abraham’s native Ur, it was well-established in his new land. God later asked Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice (Genesis 22:2). But then God distinguished Himself from gods like Moloch. Unlike the native Canaanite gods, Abraham’s God abhorred human sacrifice. God commanded Isaac to be spared, and He provided a ram to take Isaac’s place (Genesis 22:13). God used this event as an illustration of how He would later provide His own Son to take our place.

Over five hundred years after Abraham, Joshua led the Israelites out of the desert to inherit the Promised Land. God knew that the Israelites were immature in their faith and easily distracted from worshiping the one true God (Exodus 32). Before the Israelites had even entered Canaan, God warned them not to participate in Moloch worship (Leviticus 18:21) and repeatedly told them to destroy those cultures that worshiped Moloch. The Israelites didn’t heed God’s warnings. Instead, they incorporated Moloch worship into their own traditions. Even Solomon, the wisest king, was swayed by this cult and built places of worship for Moloch and other gods (1 Kings 11:1–8). Moloch worship occurred in the “high places” (1 Kings 12:31) as well as a narrow ravine outside Jerusalem called the Valley of Hinnom (2 Kings 23:10).

Despite occasional efforts by godly kings, worship of Moloch wasn’t abolished until the Israelites’ captivity in Babylon. (Although the Babylonian religion was pantheistic and characterized by astrology and divination, it did not include human sacrifice.) Somehow, the dispersion of the Israelites into a large pagan civilization succeeded in finally purging them of their false gods. When the Jews returned to their land, they rededicated themselves to God, and the Valley of Hinnom was turned into a place for burning garbage and the bodies of executed criminals. Jesus used the imagery of this place—an eternally burning fire, consuming countless human victims—to describe hell, where those who reject God will burn for eternity (Matthew 10:28).